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Career Counselor Certification and Certificate Program Information

Read detailed information about certificate programs for aspiring career counselors and the certification process for professionals in this field. Learn about program prerequisites and common courses. Take a look at employment outlook and salary statistics for career counselors.

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Essential Information

Career counselor certificate programs typically consist of 1-6 classes that focus solely on career counseling and award students a certificate of completion. Many of these programs are part of undergraduate or graduate counseling degree programs, and some coursework is available online. Many certificate programs focus on recommended competencies outlined by the National Career Development Association (NCDA), which include career counseling theory, organizational behavior and administration, career development in special populations, vocational assessment and resource development. In general, students learn how to assess client interests and help them explore career options in both the short and long term.

It's important to keep in mind that most career counselors hold a master's degree. State licensure is typically required for career counselors who open private practices. Counselors may also gain professional benefits from being certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Educational Prerequisites

Career counseling certificate programs are almost always parts of counseling degree programs. Because of this, certificate programs share the prerequisites of their parent degree programs. For an undergraduate program, requirements might include high school transcripts, standardized test scores and a personal essay. For a graduate program, application materials might include college transcripts, GRE scores, a resume, letters of recommendation and a personal statement.

Program Coursework

Coursework focuses on various aspects of career counseling and often revolves around the essential skills detailed by the NCDA. The following are some class topics that might appear in the curriculum:

  • Assessment tools
  • Workplace diversity
  • History of counseling
  • Organizational behavior
  • Counseling administration

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment for school and vocational (career) counselors will grow by 19% between 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as the national average for all occupations ( Vocational, educational, guidance and school counselors made a median annual salary of $53,610 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. The lowest-paid ten percent of these counselors made less than $32,000, while the highest-paid ten percent earned upwards of $86,000 that year.

Certification and Continuing Education Information

Practicing career counselors who wish to get certified can take the National Certified Counselor (NCC) exam administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). NCC certification is open to all types of counselors. It is important to note that this certification is not required to practice independently as a career counselor, being a voluntary certification sought by career counselors who have met the requirements.

It is also important to note that this certification is not a substitute for state licensing; however, the NCC certification is a requirement for many states' licensing exams. State licenses represent a state's permission for a career counselor to practice. Some states require career counselors to get a single license, while others use a 2-tier system.

One advantage to NCC certification is that, unlike state certifications, it can be used as a credential no matter where the career counselor goes, even overseas. It represents a national standard. Additionally, NCC certification allows access to the NBCC's counseling referral service, qualifies the career counselor for discounts on liability insurance and helps counselors develop a professional network of colleagues.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics